Newt Gingrich clarifies the “implantation” remark. And a reminder about an “excommunication”.

Remember presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s disturbing remark about “implantation”?   I wanted a clarification about that comment… coming as it did from a two-year, and therefore recent, convert to Holy Church.

In the meantime, Mr. Gingrich as made a clarification.  HERE at LifeSite:

In a new statement the Gingrich campaign sent to over the weekend, the former House Speaker says repeatedly that he believes life begins at conception, that he is pro-life and that he would implement a pro-life agenda immediately after being sown in as president if he becomes the GOP nominee and defeats pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

“As I have stated many times throughout the course of my public life, I believe that human life begins at conception,” Gingrich said in the statement. “I believe that every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived. I also believe that we should work for the day when there will be no abortions for any reason, and that every unborn child will be welcomed into life and protected by law.”

“That is why I have supported, and will continue to support, pro-life legislation that not only limits, but also reduces, the total number of abortions, with a view to the eventual legal protection of all unborn human life,” Gingrich continued.


In the 2012 presidential race, Gingrich has pledged to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court, end taxpayer funding of abortion, de-fund Planned Parenthood and sign into law a federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.  Gingrich is also committed to repealing the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law, which contains massive abortion funding and threats of rationing.

In the meantime, canonist Prof. Ed Peters, the Canonical Defender, has a comment about this matter.  He doesn’t have a combox so do spike his stats with a visit:

A canonical comment on Newt’s oddball remark


In 1988, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts authoritatively (authentice) answered the question about whether deliberate destruction of pre-natal human beings “by any method at any time after the moment of conception” (quocumque modo et quocumque tempore a momento conceptionis) was an excommunicable offense under Canon 1398. The Council’s answer, approved by Pope John Paul II on 23 May 1988, was Yes. See AAS 80 (1988) 1818-1819.Since that ruling there has not been, of course, a rush to excommunicate women for, say, miscarriages, etc., etc., and not just because such things were never threatened in the first place, but for simple legal reasons that basically leave hard cases (and there are hard cases, although miscarriage is not one) in the confessional, where they belong, while preserving the principle that innocent human life, at any stage of dependency and irrespective of how it came to be, can never be intentionally targeted for death. CCC 2271, 2275.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in 1983 CIC can. 915, Emanations from Penumbras, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Amerikaner says:

    Very glad to see the clarification. Thanks for posting.

  2. Brad says:

    Well thank goodness last week Hugh Hewitt (ex-Catholic, now non-denom evange) told us that Gingrich is an ultra-Catholic, since the latter is newly converted, and thus we can trust everything this candidate says and thinks.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. I realize he is a convert, but something this important is something he should *know* already and not have to be corrected on.

    I am SO tired of politicians having to publish a “correction” after someone on their staff points out to them, “Hey…you messed up big time…”.

    Gingrich doesn’t appear to have anything of substance about the pro-life movement on his campaign website…nothing about overturning Roe v. Wade, nothing about life beginning at conception, nothing about protecting the unborn. The only pro-life thing I can find on his website is one small sentence about ending taxpayer funding for abortion…woooo.

    The pro-life movement does not seem important to Gingrich. Bye bye, Gingrich. You won’t see a vote from me. [So, if he is the nominee, you will be voting for Pres. Obama, I suppose.]

  4. APX says:

    If what he says is true, what are the odds of him actually being elected? Does he have enough support to beat out Obama?

  5. …that he is pro-life and that he would implement a pro-life agenda immediately after being sown in as president…

    Does this mean we can trust him to do the right thing if and when he is implanted in the White House?

  6. cothrige says:

    I have a suspicion that Newt’s rather nuanced public statement regarding the “difficult questions” which arise from defining life as starting with conception has much to do with developments such as that seen recently in Mississippi. What seems like a logical and obvious definition of life as beginning at conception was rejected in that generally very red state most likely because of what it would have meant to such issues as birth control pills. Because such pills can interfere with implantation Newt probably knows that if he pursues a very strict Catholic position on life beginning at conception, he would naturally also have to fight for an end to the availability of the pill. And that just will not fly in America.

  7. Brooklyn says:

    I have a very hard time believing anything from a person who cheated on his first two wives, had 84 ethics charges against him and sanctioned $300,000 when he was in the House, and is a 33rd degree Mason. [?!? Proof?] I know he is a recent convert to Catholicism, but I have never heard him renounce masonry. I will always picture him sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi and telling us we have to fight climate change. [You sound rather like a Donatist.]

    As far as being pro life, I don’t ever remember him trying to do anything about this during his political career. [I guess you didn’t actually use any of the links in the top entry.]

    Buyer beware.

  8. trad catholic mom says:

    I’m glad he clarified.

    Since we are on the subject, this weekend on Huckabee Rick Santorum said he supports a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.

  9. Cathy says:

    Perhaps the appropriate question following life begins at conception is which definition of conception you adhere to. In the dictionary, conception means fertilization or implantation or a combination of both. The word “conception” has been given a squiggly rendering which disregards its genesis in terms of procreation. The speaker can thus maintain life begins at conception and choose a definition of conception which renders his idea of life at requiring both fertilization/implantation plausible. Please, if you have a moment, visit with regards to candidate Newt Gingrich. For some reason, to date, he has not updated his responses for the 2012 election campaign. Both this fact and his previous responses/votes deserve at least a little probing.

  10. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    I do not intend to vote for Newt. But I don’t think a person needs to know all the medical ins and outs of an issue to be on the right political side of an issue. He apparently is against abortion–period. The ones that need to be confronted about the development of the child in the womb are the pro-abortion politicians

  11. Veronica says:

    I have seen so many politicians here in America and in my home country messing up big time when they use the wrong terms. Maybe I’m just being naïve, but I think that Newt Gingrich just messed using the wrong term. I’m still going to give him the benefit of the doubt and watch closely his future statements. In the coming presidential ellections, voting for Pres. Obama is not an option for me. Actually, it shouldn’t be the option for any Catholic with a formed concience and in good standing with the Church.

  12. bbmoe says:

    It would be fine if Mr. Gingrich didn’t constantly have to “clarify” or “correct” is statements, but it seems to be a continuous stream. I’m glad he’s Catholic, I’m extremely glad he’s so pro-life, and I hope that his past relationships have been repaired, healed, etc.

    But: he’s not stupid. I know this because anyone who is paid $30,000 per hour to be a “historian” for Freddie Mac has to be a genius. The smartest person around, someone who prides himself on his great intellect uses a word like implantation when he meant “conception”? Call me cynical. Sounds like he’s trying to elide Church teaching to make it more palatable to the more-than-you-think numbers of pro-choice Republicans in places like California and the NE.

  13. bbmoe says:

    @Deacon: Abortion isn’t the only issue here. Farming in vitro embryos is. When Newt says “implantation” that’s the “All aboard” shout out to the embryonic stem cell crowd and the morning-after pill manufacturers and the in-vitro industry. He’s threading the needle, or trying to, leaving a rather profitable hunk of industry on the right side of his ethical hairsplitting. [sorry about the mixed metaphor!]

  14. Mary Jane says:

    [So, if he is the nominee, you will be voting for Pres. Obama, I suppose.]

    No, Fr Z.

  15. Tominellay says:

    …agreeing with Mary Jane…Newt isn’t an option for me…

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    There is no such thing as a “33rd degree Mason”. My paternal grandfather and my grandfather in law were both 32nd degree, the highest degree. One became a Knight Templar, the other a Shriner. They were both very nice fellows and not a whiff of conspiracy around either one of them.
    As I’ve said before, Gingrich was my congressman and I’ve followed his career with some attention. I have never heard that he was a Mason of any stripe, let alone a higher-up one.
    And a cursory look on the internet shows that the basis for this rumor appears to be that somebody saw him wearing what they thought might be a Masonic lapel pin.
    I still don’t trust him much further than I can kick him up a chimney, BUT
    with that said, he is miles and oceans better than Obama.
    And all of this news-media-driven stuff is intended to divide conservatives and get them to stay home on election day . . . and return Obama to office.
    I’m still steamed at the attacks on Herman Cain and the fact that so many conservatives bought into rumors and allegations by suspect individuals (a hallmark of Obama’s campaigns on the state level, by the way). If conservative candidates can be sunk on the basis of shady allegations and rumors alone, Obama will be returned to office.

  17. Dave N. says:

    This latest statement seems to be more in conflict with his previous comments, rather than a clarification of them.

  18. Banjo pickin girl says:

    There is a 33rd degree in Scottish Rite masonry but it is strictly honorary, the title is Inspector General. It might be given for example to someone in charge of funding and building a hospital. It is highly unlikely that Newt Gingrich is one. I am from several generations of Masons, my father was 32nd degree Scottish Rite, 4th degree York rite and a member of the AAONMS. Both my parents were Eastern Star and I once studied for co-masonry.

    There is a lot of nonsense around about Masons, so-called Illuminati, etc. People mix up the American, Elks Club style of masonry with old the French kind which it resembles not in the least.

  19. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I am waiting to see who the nominee is and who looks likely going into a primary but I can’t see myself voting for Gingrich for multiple reasons. I think we once again will be voting for the lesser of two “weevils,” as the old joke goes.

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    As I understand it, the basic problem that applies also to American freemasonry is it promotes religious indifferentism. A Catholic cannot believe that all religions are equally true or equally good.

  21. BT says:

    [You sound rather like a Donatist.]

    To be fair, Fr. Z, I think a kind of “Donatism” is a perfectly healthy attitude concerning politicians, since they don’t possess any state such that their works will be successful ex opere operato. Indeed, a politician needs the moral virtues in order to govern well. I don’t think it’s imprudent, on the one hand, to be quite hopeful as regards the sincerity and depth of Mr. Gingrich’s conversion, while on the other hand to be less than enthusiastic about giving a man with such a history the power associated with the office of the Presidency.

  22. Ezra says:

    I believe that every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived.

    And yet in recent days he has stated his support for permitting abortions in cases of rape, incest, and where a mother’s health is said to be imperilled.

  23. Cathy says:

    Thanks, Ezra, I noticed that as well in his 2012 response to NRLC. Aside from the policy inferences his declaration on permissible abortions make, can a Catholic politician implicitly support any abortion and remain in a state of communion with the Church?

  24. Vincenzo says:

    AnAmericanMother says:

    I have never heard that he was a Mason of any stripe, let alone a higher-up one.
    And a cursory look on the internet shows that the basis for this rumor appears to be that somebody saw him wearing what they thought might be a Masonic lapel pin.

    Newt during a Q&A at Scripps College in February 2010: “I have no role in freemasonry.”

  25. Andrew says:

    Since that ruling there has not been, of course, a rush to excommunicate women for, say, miscarriages, etc., etc.

    A miscarriage is not a deliberate act, hence a miscarriage is irrelevant to the question at hand which has to do with a DELIBERATE destruction.

  26. Spera_in_Deo says:

    I think he was referring to the difficulty of when is the soul enshrined in the life, as in the case of twins, triplets etc, that would happen after its implanted in the womb and the cells divide logically. But that is not saying there is not life between conception and implantation. To me, the child’s “life” started on the day the parents married, or even back to Adam if one wants to get that metaphysical if we start looking at God’s timing. Anyway that was how I read his original comment.

  27. ShihanRob says:

    Newt’s position/clarification still has me wondering what he really believes. Leaving aside for a moment, that I’d vote for a Chia Pet if it were Obama’s opponent in November 2012, I’d still like to see him state clearly, that his new, corrected position supersedes his position on the National Right to Life Survey.
    In it, he says in response to the question, “Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe that abortion should be legal ?” He checked the box for “To prevent the mother’s death, in cases of incest committed against a minor, and in reported cases of rape involving force or threat of force.” I mean, does he still believe that? Lots of people, amazingly, believe that life begins at conception, but don’t object to abortion in the instances described above. Is Newt one of them? I’d still like to know, even though I’d vote for him over President Obama, because the President’s positions on life issues are even worse than Newt’s ambiguous positions.


  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    Another error (by omission): 83 of the ethics charges were found to be of no merit on initial hearing, and the last was eventually found meritless by the IRS, but after Gingrich had settled and paid the $300k.
    This MO of a flurry of unsubstantiated accusations should sound familiar ( cough cough . . . Sarah Palin . . . cough cough . . . Herman Cain )
    My real problem with Gingrich (aside from his tendency to shoot from the lip, which we see here in the “implantation” controversy) is that he has never seemed to have much of a backbone. No matter how good a game you talk, if you don’t stand fast for your principles you aren’t much use.
    Maybe he has actually undergone a conversion, and will stand by and be strengthened by Catholic principles. As a convert myself, I know the Church has been a very positive influence on my life and my ability to stand fast.
    We shall see.

  29. MikeM says:

    While I’m sure Mr. Gingrich has plenty of personal flaws and has done his share of rotten things, the ethics complaints against him when he was speaker were all pretty bogus. All but one were found to have no substance when investigated by the House. He basically settled on the remaining complaint, but was later cleared of wrongdoing by the IRS.

    I find it difficult to view falling afoul of technicalities of the tax code as a serious ethical matter, anyway.

  30. AnAmericanMother says:

    That’s certainly something more easily put to bed than vague allegations of freemasonry, Bohemian Grove, and the Council on Foreign Relations. (What? No Illuminati?)

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    Can’t agree that Paul is a good man to support. His foreign policy stands are isolationist and extreme. He would abandon Israel, and he doesn’t seem to comprehend the Islamic threat at all.
    He’s picked up endorsements from the radical Muslims in Detroit this time around, and last time it was Stormfront and the neo-Confederates. He didn’t disavow or distance himself from the latter.
    I don’t doubt that he means well, but he has some enormous blind spots that could do great harm were he ever elected.

  32. Mary Jane says:

    Had to stop back in to point out something interesting: Now, I’m not a Perry supporter/fan, but Rick Perry has more on his campaign website about the unborn and the pro-life movement than Newt Gingrich has on his.

    Just sayin’.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    I like Perry, and he’s certainly pro-life, but he just can’t seem to get any traction. He shot to the top of the polls and then back to the bottom like a boomerang.
    He’s not a particularly good speaker, at least not in the debate format, and I think that hurts him.

  34. Lapis47 says:

    @Supertradmum,?I don’t believe Ron Paul’s policies are isolationist at all. As he himself said,

    “The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on counties and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seeking change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.”

    Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide attack in its history. I’ve lived in Afghanistan and the country is growing increasingly unstable after the longest war in US history not to mention billions of dollars and countless lives lost.

    I also think he’s by far the most consistent pro-life candidate, and hasn’t, in his long political career (and medical one, delivering 4000+ babies if I remember correctly) flip flopped on this.?I think his honesty and consistency on this, among all other issues, make him the best candidate.

  35. Athanasius says:

    Please, don’t drink the Newt kool-aid. He’s just an establishment hack.

    Mark Shea preaches it better than I ever could:

    I repeat what I have maintained for years, I’ll go to hell before I vote Republican.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:


    While I respect Shea, in this instance he is wrong as he can be.

    One word: Judges.

    ALL Democrat judicial appointees are pro-abortion. They stay on the bench for life.

    One judge on the USSC will tip the scale for Obamacare, no conscience protection for Catholic doctors or hospitals, euthanasia, and abortion.

    I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

  37. Athanasius says:

    None of that matters. The pro-life movement has been a colossal failure in the realm of politics, in the realm of grassroots work it has been spectacularly successful, but in the realm of politics it has failed. Republicans don’t want to end abortion. Judges don’t matter. Conservative justices like Scalia sound great but then they ignore the constitution all the time when it suits them, such as in the erosion of parental rights through is rulings. Thomas is a monsanto (i.e. satan)’s lackey, Roberts doesn’t impress me, Alito is the only one worth his salt. Republicans don’t want to end abortion, because the day they do they are a failed party. They will not get votes again. There is no political way to end abortion because all the elites want it. The only way is through conversion of the individual. People like Newt do not want to end abortion, they do not want to change the status quo, Newt is the worst kind of filth, he is a chemelion who like Clinton puts his finger in the wind to find out which way. Newt has no problem murdering arab babies for our foreign policy, he has no problem violating Catholic teaching on abortion. He is scum. So is Santorum. So is Ron Paul who wants to degrade our society further by legalizing drugs.

    There is only one solution to abortion. Sidewalk counseling, crisis pregnancy centers and God’s judgment. If you think voting does anything you are more of a fool than Newt.

  38. AnAmericanMother says:


    I’m not going to bother with all the ‘inside baseball’ because you obviously wouldn’t believe me anyway. But your wholesale slander of some very good justices is scandalous.

    I would say you would deserve whatever horrible incompetent radical Marxists Obama would appoint to the bench in his second term, but the rest of us would have to endure them too, and I don’t think the legal system would survive.

  39. Joanne says:

    Some of the choices we’re faced with when voting are horrible. I honestly don’t know – are we justified in voting for the person who will simply do the least violence to our efforts to build a culture of life?

    As far as Republicans and the abortion issue, there are certainly some Republicans who appear to be genuinely prolife, but as a party, I too doubt that they want the issue to go away.

  40. Mary Jane says:

    Wow Athanasius. I was a long-time reader of your blog (I was sorry to see it closed) and I agreed with you on a lot of things. Your comment just above, however, is a bit too much.

  41. If it was a vote between Obama Hussein Barack and Gingrich I think I would vote for Mickey Mouse- the rat is definitely more trustworthy and has a better track record.

    That and I am tired of voting for the lesser evil. If people continue in that mind set then it will only take us a little longer to to get hit bottom but you can be dead certain we will hit it sooner or later. If it comes to voting I would rather vote for a candidate that I truly believe in even if he doesn’t have a chance. It may like Custer’s Last Strand but at least I stood for something and didn’t continue to play charades with them. If large numbers of people did that the aristocracy on the Hill would know they couldn’t continue doing what they have been doing all these years.

    After all how can anyone really have a choice when the parties and the MSM elite put up Candidate A and Candidate B? Maybe one is a little worse than the other. Everyone knows both are pretty bad. Either way the aristocracy (and that is what it really is- read the history of the political dynasties- many have been in there a very long time) gets the man they wanted in. Soon with the electronic “voting machines” they will not even need their minions to commit voting fraud at the booth. It is incredibly difficult to detect virus’ and fraud on an electronic machine. They are much easier to hack, etc. Even a number of countries in Europe refuse to use them due to their vulnerabilities to tampering. It happened last election (for instance Nevada) and will happen even worse next year. Thatis probably why they are so sure of themselvesand waiting until after the elections to enacttheir new round of draconian legislation. They want a “mandate- which can very easily be obtained by voter fraud via electronic machines. There has been an immense amount of corruption in America’s elections through history (just of Tilden and there are numerous others) and you will realize it has happened and can happen again very easily.

  42. aarmstrong says:

    I would like to know when HHR Secretary Kathleen Sibelius will be excommunicated. I know His Holiness has met with her, but she has remained “Catholic” for a long time while preaching from abortion’s pulpit.

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